How do you keep a twenty-seven-year-old franchise fresh? It seems Electronic Arts has the answer. Over time it has carefully refined the Madden series of games, adding new features to bring the franchise up to date with modern expectations. Madden NFL 16 is the latest game to accomplish this. It is a solid simulation of the popular American sport that comes complete with a brand new passing system and modes that give you more control over how you play.
Booting up the game for the first time, you’re greeted with an interactive cinematic. This seeks to demonstrate the latest additions and upgrades such as the newly altered controls and the improved visuals. It does this well, combining a quick tutorial with the spectacle of playing in a high stakes Super Bowl game. If you weren’t already excited to play, this outstanding presentation will undoubtedly increase your enthusiasm, motivating you to dig a little deeper into the title.
One of the major positives of the game is its exquisite graphics. Players’ faces and physiques are faithfully reconstructed within the engine, showing an extraordinary attention to detail. As matches draw on, you can see the sweat begin to roll down the cheeks of players and observe the change in movement as a result of their growing fatigue. It is stunning to watch. EA has constantly pushed the bar in regards to authenticity within its sports titles and this is definitely no different. The replays and in-game analysis perfectly encapsulate this level of care. They replicate the feel of a television broadcast with their use of theatrical camera angles and flashy graphics, making the matches feel all the more real.
In the last Madden game the defensive play was the area that had undergone redevelopment. Now EA has turned its attention towards improving the passing system. This is effective in giving you more control over your plays. This works by letting you alter how your quarterback throws depending on the receiver’s body type. It also grants you a range of options for intercepting or catching the ball as the defender and the receiver. Pressing one button configuration will allow you to violently snatch at the ball, whilst another will cause you to grab at it whilst maintaining your run. This is instinctive and makes up for a lot of the issues associated with the previous releases. It also presents you with the opportunity to create some awe-inspiring plays to look back on after the fact.
Once you have familiarized yourself with these changes to the series you can then set up an exhibition or online match, or try to go the distance with your favourite team in franchise mode. These are enjoyable past times, and provide an array of obstacles for you to overcome. The franchise mode, for example, gives you the ability to take on the responsibilities of a coach as well as a player. This will dramatically impact your decision-making process on and off the field, as you may be more likely to take risks when you’re actually in control of the team.
Another new addition being floated in the promotional material for the game is the Draft Champions mode. This aims to entice fantasy football players to get involved with the Madden series. In this mode you are tasked with drafting the best team from a selection of a contemporary and legendary players. After choosing your team, you can then use your selections to play against other people’s draft picks online. This is a fantastic new mode that presents the game with a lot more variety. It is also the area that will see you spending the most time experimenting with your player options, tactics, and techniques.
Despite Madden NFL 16 accomplishing a lot that its predecessor didn’t, there is arguably still some small room for improvement. This mostly applies to the dribbling in the game and the AI glitches. Dribbling in Madden NFL 16 is still extremely difficult to master, especially on the harder skill settings, making it unfriendly to newcomers to the series. This is slightly frustrating, but it can eventually be overcome by spending some additional time practicing in the tutorials.
As is the case with almost all EA Sports’ titles, the game’s AI sometimes find themselves acting in bizarre ways when becoming entangled with other players. This somewhat takes away from the realism, but adds an unintended extra layer of fun. Observing this strange AI behaviour can be genuinely amusing at times, providing such terrific sights as players getting repeatedly kicked in the head by their teammates after rushing an opponent and defenders hugging it out on the floor.
To be fair, there really isn’t too much to criticize about the latest Madden, except for the few points that are outlined above. The game is a great representation of the sport, with a wide range of modes to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in simply playing matches online or pouring plenty of hours into developing your own team in the franchise mode, there is much to enjoy and obsess over. If you have a passion for American football, there really is no better replication of the sport this well designed and executed.